Following on from the highly successful “Hand in Hand – Kidogo Irish Aboriginal Festival 2023″, Joanna Robertson (Creative Director of KIAF) organised a Cultural Expedition to visit remote aboriginal communities that she had connections with. Joanna invited Machán Magan (Author, Orator and Irish Language Expert) who was visiting Australia to speak at the festival, to join her on her travels. Together they travelled to Kununurra, Balgo and Yiyili (Mueller Ranges) located in the far north of Western Australia.
Upon landing in Kununurra, Joanna and Manchán visited the Waringarri Art Centre and met with senior lore man and artist, Ben Ward.
This was followed by a one on one cultural briefing by Waringarri Arts Tour Guide, Peter Griffiths-Sebastien and cultural learning at Lake Argyle.
After their time in Kununurra, Joanna and Manchán travelled 8 hours South to Balgo, which is located on the edge of the Tanami Desert and the Great Sandy Desert.
Balgo is now well known for their “Warlayirti Artists” community, which was established with the help of Sister Alice Dempsey (IRE) in the 1980s. The Warlayirti Artists are good friends of the Kidogo Irish Aboriginal Festival as their work was exhibited during the inaugural festival in 2021.
During their visit, Joanna and Manchán stayed at the residence of the director of Art Centre.
• Meet and greet with the Warlayirti Artists at the Art Centre
• Tour of the country learning about mountains in the area
• Cooking an Irish / Aboriginal meal on country over fire
• Returned to the Art Centre and cooked a meal for the artists
• Fishing trip with kids and people of the Mulen and Balgo communities
• Gracie Mosquito who is responsible for the lore of the lake performed a traditional blessing on Joanna and Manchán
• Gracie baked her Damper for dinner
• Cultural exchange session at dinner
• Learning more about the Warlayirti Artists
• A painting was created by the Lee sisters for Sister Alice Dempsey – who now resides in Ireland
• Manchán Magan later delivered the painting to Sister Alice who was thrilled to receive her gift
For their final stop, Joanna and Manchan made their way to Yiyili, which is a closed community, 6 hours north-west of Balgo. Their time in Yiyili included learning about the lore of the country, tours of the landscape, learning about bush medicine and other traditions, a class on Gooniyandi language as well as teaching special art techniques to the artists in the community and teaching bread baking and an introduction to Irish language to the children.
• Meet and greet with the community artists at Laarri Gallery
• Cultural walking tour with Kenneth Dawson through a semi-dry riverbed
• Road-trip with Elders Frances and Paul Cox to remote areas, a waterfall and land formations
• An introductory class on the Gooniyandi Language
• Linguistics class by Manchán Magan for the community’s primary school children
• Three hour trip with children from the community who shared their understanding of lore and connection to country
• Bread baking class by Joanna Robertson for the community’s primary school children
• Colour mixing class by Joanna Robertson for the artists
• Discussion about the effects of colonialism on community with Robert Nangala